It is not every day that a business, that too a startup, reaches a billion-dollar valuation. It’s even rarer for two companies of the same family to attain that stature. Recently, the husband-wife duo, Asish Mohapatra and Ruchi Kalra became the first Indian couple to turn their individual startups into unicorns with funding. A unicorn is a term used to describe a startup with a valuation of over $1 billion.
Asish and Ruchi own OfBusiness, a startup that turned unicorn in July 2021 after raising $160 million from SoftBank Vision Fund 2. In March 2022, Oxyzo Financial Solutions, the financing arm of OfBusiness, joined the unicorn club after raising $200 million.
“The itch to build something”
Ruchi and Asish are Indian Institute of Technology alumni, who started OfBusiness with the aim to solve the B2B or Business to Business problems in India. On the idea to start their own business, Ruchi Kalra said, “We both had an itch to go out and build something.” Kalra and Mohapatra started OfBusiness along with seven others, to cater to the SME sectors of the country.
While OfBusiness supplies bulk raw materials to SMEs, Oxyzo, an offset of the company, provides cash-flow based financing access to small and medium enterprises. This financial access is primarily for the procurement of raw materials for SMEs. The founders saw a clear lack of innovation in the B2B financial services sector, and this is where OfBusiness and Oxyzo come in.
“The more unsexy it is, the better it is”
It might be surprising to see an industrial goods business changing the game. After all, it’s not one of the more commercial or glamorous businesses like food, hospitality, or advertising. Asish Mohapatra, by his own admission, is drawn to unglamorous ideas.
In an interview with MoneyControl, Mohapatra said, “I like businesses that are under the radar. I make products that are under the radar. I make products that are far away from the limelight because that is where a business is to be made.” He further added, “…I will get into contract manufacturing, which nobody wants to touch. I will get into licensed papers which nobody wants to touch. I will make it more and more unglamorous. The more unsexy it is, the better it is. Because the reality is, you will always be ahead of the competition if you are doing unsexy things.”
According to Mohapatra, it takes only three things to be an “unsexy business” — it shouldn’t be in the metros, the common man shouldn’t be able to understand it, and there has to be education and hard work behind it.
Being the leader of the game
Ruchi Kalra, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Oxyzo says, “We want to be at the forefront of this as a diversified financial services company, differentiated through its innovative financial products and digital platforms on the back of strong credit and origination capabilities.”
While Oxyzo has been a profitable venture since its inception, Ruchi Kalra aims to further scale the business with the new funding. She said, “We will also use the funding for inorganic expansion through acquisitions. We will scale the supply chain marketplace, launch innovative fixed-income products for the SME space, and scale other fee incomes business lines including debt capital markets and securities.”
Teamwork is at the core of success
Ruchi Kalra is one of the very few women entrepreneurs who have made it to the unicorn club. While she has worked hard for the position Oxyzo stands at today, she accredits the success to her team.
“The titles and who is the CEO wasn’t the question internally, the roles were clear and it was all a team effort,” Ruchi says. “The success and growth of Oxyzo aren’t led by one person. It works both ways, and it is important to have a team that is strong and powerful.”
A message to women in business
Ruchi explains how some of the biases women face in the entrepreneurial world are not always external. Some biases are an inherent part of women, often based on their experiences and the world they have seen around them. She advises, “Just look at the mirror and say, ‘I am good enough.’ Don’t let your personal biases become the biggest bias in your head. There is no harm in seeking help. You can’t and don’t need to be perfect at everything. Seek help from parents, spouse, and everybody around. Asish (Group CEO, OfBusiness and Ruchi’s husband) has been a significant support, and my six-year-old daughter has been a strong pillar as well…I owe everything to many.”